A/N: Thank you all for your wonderful reviews and encouragement for this story. I think there will only be one more chapter. However please let me know if you want me to continue with the story in some form or other. I'm open to suggestions.
A/N 2: I have removed my original Chapter 3 and re-posted it as I noticed a mistake I'd made when I re-read Windimere Wellen's At the Bottom of the Hill for research for further chapters following a comment, and challenge, from Orangetails. Apologies to those who had previously read this chapter but hope this revised version is as good if not better.
Hetty stood and watched the ambulance speed away and jumped a little when Granger put his hand on her shoulder and said "Come on, Henrietta, we should be going."
Turning towards him, Granger was a little surprised to see her eyes were glistening with unshed tears. "They're going to be fine, Henrietta." She nodded, not trusting her voice. "You're not going soft on me, are you?" said Granger in an attempt to raise her spirits.
He knew she was a tough cookie and was ruthless when she had to be. In her role as Operations Manager it was her duty to send those in her care into danger and he knew she worried constantly that one day they would not all come back. He also knew that in the past, a few of those agents had been killed in the line of duty and she did not take the news very well although she rarely let anyone see the heart-breaking emotion she felt when something bad happened. He had worked closely with the legend that is Henrietta Lange for many years when they were both CIA as well as now in NCIS. He had been party to both her ruthlessness as well as her tender side. He also knew Callen was one of the few people she had let into that aspect of her life, although until recently it had been kept a secret from the others. He also knew her relationship with Callen had been strained lately so she would have put more pressure on herself once it became apparent that he and Sam were missing because of the guilt she felt. She also would be trying to appear in total control so that the other members of the team did not lose focus and worry about her rather than concentrating on their jobs. It was all taking a toll on her and Granger could see the façade crumbling.
"Henrietta, this is not your fault. Both Callen and Sam are grown men and excellent agents to boot. They know exactly what they're doing and what the risks are. Henrietta, shit happens. I know you're worried about them both. I am as well, but they're going to be fine. We've just got to figure out whether this had something to do with this case, something from their past or just an ad hoc attack."
Hetty looked up at Granger and wiped her eyes. "Of course, you're right, Owen. I'm not going to help either of them moping around like this. Let's go to the hospital and check on them. But we must warn Miss Blye and Detective Deeks in case it's related to this case. If so, they may be in danger as well. Miss Jones and Mr Beale can start looking for possible connections, once we have updated them of Mr Callen's and Mr Hanna's condition."
Granger's expression shifted imperceptively to what the team called 'his happy face' and inwardly smiled at Hetty's changed demeanour. He got in behind the steering wheel of the SUV and waited for Hetty to climb in beside him before driving off to the hospital. En route Hetty contacted Ops and updated Nell and Eric about Callen and Sam before asking them to get a team down to the crash site to remove the wreckage of the Challenger as well as any debris left in its wake and to get it back to the mission for analysis. She also asked for Kensi and Deeks to be informed of the situation and asked them to come to the hospital as soon as they were able.
The journey to the hospital was uneventful and the EMTs transferred their patients to ER updating the trauma team of Callen's injuries and stats. As Callen was the more seriously injured of the two, Sam was happy to wait until an ER doctor was free to see him. Sam turned to EMT crew before they left and thanked them for all they had done, shaking their hands in turn before turning to enter the trauma room where Callen had been taken. He was stopped by a nurse who told him "I'm sorry you can't come in here."
"I'm a Federal Agent and he's my partner. Our accident could be in connection with a current or old case and until it's determined to the contrary, he's still be in danger. I'm not leaving" stated Sam. The nurse, who was usually adept at dealing with difficult patients and relatives, visibly paled under Sam's glare.
At a nod of consent from the trauma doctor, who had overheard the conversation whilst assessing Callen, the nurse let Sam enter and returned to her tasks thankful to be away from the intimidating agent. "Thank you Doctor. How is he?" said Sam looking at Callen who was now on various monitors, which were bleeping reassuringly in the background. He also had an IV delivering blood rather than saline into his veins.
"Still checking him over. As he's lost a lot of blood, we're giving him a transfusion as well as antibiotics intravenously but his stats are steady though a little on the low side. From looking at you I assume you were in the same crash?" Sam nodded. "Look, sit down before you fall down. Tell me everything that happened. How long he was unconscious, anything that might help us. Oh what's his name?" said the Doctor as Sam sat down in the chair indicated.
"Grisha Callen, though he answers to G or Callen. I'm Sam Hanna, his partner" said Sam as he started to tell the Doctor everything that happened in the exact order it occurred. He tried not to leave anything out and answered the Doctor's specific questions following something Sam had mentioned. "I'm his medical proxy or one of them. I've got a USB drive which has his medical history but I must've lost it in the crash. My boss should be here soon, she'll have one."
"That'll be useful, Mr Hanna" said the Dr White.
"Call me Sam."
"Okay, Sam, he's stable at the moment but needs a CT scan to assess his head injury. After that, if all is well, he'll go to x-ray to check exactly where the bullet is lodged so we can remove it. Let me have a quick look at you and you can go with him as I sense you're not going to leave his side." When Sam nodded in confirmation the Doctor said "You can go and get a scan and x-rays as well when he does."
Shortly Hetty and Granger arrived at the Emergency Department and were shown into the trauma room. The Doctor introduced himself "I'm Dr White. Mr Callen's stable and has just gone down to have a CT scan to ascertain how bad his head injury is. If that's all good then he'll go to x-ray so we can see where the bullet is and learn the extent of his other breaks. Sam's gone with him. He'll need a scan and x-rays too. He says one of you is Mr Callen's medical proxy and you'll have a USB with his medical history? He's lost his apparently."
"Yes, that's me" said Hetty as she retrieved the thumb drive from her purse and handed it to the Doctor.
"Thanks. This'll be very useful" he said as he handed it to a colleague "Pull the notes up from this please."
Whilst the Doctor was waiting for the notes to appear, Hetty phoned Nell in Ops. "Miss Jones, ask the team to look for a USB drive either in the car or down the bank. It contains the medical history of Mr Callen so it's imperative that we find it."
When the details were displayed on the screen of the pc nearby the Doctor said "Let's see what we've got. Interesting" he muttered as he read through the notes.
Turning to Hetty Dr White said "This'll be extremely useful in treating him. He's been in the wars I see. I take it his job as a Federal Agent is very dangerous." It was a statement and he didn't expect an answer so Hetty did not respond but Granger said "His status and that of Agent Hanna are classified. We'll have to seal your records."
Dr White raised his eyebrows at the remark but said "Understood. I guess guys like these go widely unnoticed and unthanked but the people of Los Angeles owe them much."
Hetty smiled as Granger said "I wouldn't say 'unnoticed'. In their job chaos and carnage normally follows them around. But yes, we do our best to catch the bad guys and keep the folks of LA safe."
Just then an orderly wheeled Callen back into the trauma room with Sam walking by the side of the gurney and handed Dr White the CT scan reports and the x-rays. Dr White read the reports and nodded to himself before putting them down. Placing Callen's x-rays on the light box on the wall, Dr White and his colleagues studied them. There were four in all: one of his right thigh which showed the bullet, another showed his broken arm, another showed the breaks in his collarbone and shoulder blade whilst the last was of his ribs. Before turning to the NCIS agents, the x-ray of Sam's ribs was looked at as well.
"OK. Sam, your CT scan is clear although you've got a slight concussion. You've also got a couple of broken ribs so I'll admit you for observation though I doubt you'll leave here until we've finished with Mr Callen?"
Sam was defiant and shook his head and weathered the glares from Granger and Hetty.
"So be it" said Dr White. "Okay, Mr Callen's CT scan indicate that there's a small cerebral hemorrhage, that is a small bleed on the brain. These normally stop on their own without the need for treatment and cause no permanent damage but we need to keep a close eye on it in case it develops into a more dangerous condition. The bleeding will be monitored by measuring intracranial pressure and by repeated head CT scans." Seeing their reaction to the news, the Doctor continued. "He's in the best place right now and we'll be able to react quickly if his condition deteriorates. On the bright side, none of his breaks are complicated so we're deal with them in theatre after we've retrieved the bullet, where it's lodged against the bone here" indicating the spot on the x-ray to the others. "Thankfully the damage has been lessened as the velocity of the bullet was decreased by having pierced the door first. However it'll be safer to remove it in theatre where we'll be in a better environment to cope with complications if any arise. I'm arranging to get him transferred now."
Hetty was unable to speak but Granger said "Thank you Doctor for being so frank. It's appreciated. Please keep us appraised of his condition."
Callen was transferred to surgery where the bullet was removed without incident. The muscle was stitched as was the entry wound in his thigh. The surgeon noticed a huge bruise at the top of the thigh in the area of the hip joint and made a mental note to look again at the x-rays to check for further damage, although he was hopeful no bone damage had occurred. The patient would know all about it though as it would be very painful. Whilst he was under anaesthetic, Callen's broken bones were aligned and set where possible after which he was moved to the recovery room before being transferred to a private room. The room, especially organised by Dr White at the Hetty's request, was located at the end of the corridor where it could be defended easily and had two beds, one for Callen and the other for Sam, who would probably be discharged the following day, but would likely want to stay with this partner and friend.
When Callen was wheeled into the room, Sam was in bed, having been reluctantly subjected to a check-up by a nurse who had then attached some monitors to him. He was physically and mentally exhausted. Kensi and Deeks, who had arrived after Callen had been taken to surgery, were chatting to Hetty, Granger and Sam. They all stopped talking and anxiously looked over to their colleague, who was still unconscious. Kensi gasped at the sight of her team leader and friend and Deeks was shocked by his condition. They had seen him injured before but he looked so pale and still and the cuts and bruises on his face and the dark rings under his eyes only accentuated his paleness. He also looked helpless lying unconscious with IV drips, tubes and monitors attached to him. Dr White entered shortly afterwards and all attention turned to him.
"Ah Sam, I'm glad to see you've been admitted. Whilst I'm confident that the head injury is purely concussion and you'll feel no side effects from it, it's better to be on the safe side. From the look of you, you could do with the enforced rest" he said.
"Thank you, Doctor" said Hetty "I've been telling him the same thing but he's almost as stubborn as Mr Callen in that respect." Sam rolled his eyes which did not go unnoticed by Hetty or the others. He also knew that if Callen had not been in the condition he was, he would have been on receiving end of a sarcastic quip.
Dr White smiled at the exchange and started to update them on Callen's condition. "The op went well and the bullet was removed without incident. Here it is as requested" handing Hetty the bullet in a plastic evidence bag. "Whilst he was under we set the breaks we could. I saw from his medical history that he can have adverse reactions to sedatives. I've prescribed a mild sedative, a brand which isn't mentioned in his history so I hope he can tolerate it. It'll help him sleep and will aid his recovery if he gets as much rest as possible, giving his wounds time to heal. I'll ensure the nursing staff keep a close eye on him in case he reacts badly to the meds. We'll have to do another CT scan to check if the bleed is getting worse but that can wait till later tomorrow. He'll be checked every two hours but if there's a change in his stats the monitors will alert us."
"Thank you, Dr. It may seem unconventional but can you please provide us with the names of the medical staff who will be attending to him. In our line of business, we make enemies and it isn't beyond the realms of possibility for those enemies to infiltrate a hospital to get to a target. We have to assume that the accident was a deliberate attempt to kill Agents Callen and Hanna so until it can be proven otherwise, they'll need our protection. We'll also do our utmost to keep your medical staff safe as well" said Granger.
If Dr White was taken aback by the request, he did not show it but answered "Of course. I'll get them to you right away." Dr White returned shortly advising that a colleague was compiling the information and it would be with them in a few minutes. As promised a nurse came to Dr White and handed him an envelope which contained the information they needed and included photos of the medical staff assigned to care for the Agents.
"Here you are. I've left instructions that you're to be advised of any changes to the staff assigned to this care detail."
"Thank you, Dr" said Hetty. "You've been very patient and accommodating with this strange request. We trust that it's just precautionary and that nothing will happen but as we've said, in our line of work we can't be too careful and it is our duty not only to protect our Agents but also any civilians as well. Whilst Mr Callen and Mr Hanna are otherwise out of action, I'm afraid other Agents will be posted to guard them. We will of course be as unobtrusive as possible and try not to disrupt the work of your staff."
"I understand. This isn't the first time we've had law enforcement officers, criminals, politicians or celebrities under guard here. It's LA after all" he said totally non-plussed by the situation.
"We've kept you long enough. You must have other patients to see. Now I must leave" said Granger as he shook Dr White's hand. "Thank you for your co-operation" and after nodding at his NCIS colleagues Granger turned to leave.
Giving Callen a final check, Dr White said "He's stable and resting. Do not hesitate to call me or one of my staff if you're worried. I'll be by tomorrow, or rather later today, to check on him again. Sam, you should be fit enough to be discharged tomorrow but I'll check on you as well." With thank yous and handshakes all round, Dr White left to go about his duties, leaving Hetty, Kensi and Deeks to watch over Callen and Sam. Sam soon fell into a deep sleep, fatigue finally winning.
Back in Ops Nell and Eric were running down leads that they'd discovered about the other vehicle whilst waiting for the Challenger to be brought in. Nell had also gone to the garage where the Challenger and all the debris from the accidental had been taken. Both phones had been recovered and thankfully the USB stick had been found as well and she brought them back to Ops for safe keeping. Nell has shuddered when she had first seen Callen's phone and the damaged caused by the bullet which was still embedded in it. She knew Callen usually carried it in the right front pocket of his jeans and could only imagine the amount of damage the bullet would have done if it had not hit the phone first. Eric experienced a similar feeling when he saw it as well.
The phone rang and made the pair jump. "Hetty! How are Callen and Sam?" asked Nell, bringing her whirling thoughts back to the present as she answered the phone.
"Sam's being kept in for observation but otherwise is well but exhausted. He's sleeping now. Mr Callen has been in surgery to have the bullet removed which Assistant Director Granger will give you to analyse on his return to Ops. Mr Callen's condition is serious but stable but not thought to be life-threatening. However he's being kept under a light sedation. He'll have another scan tomorrow, I mean later today, to assess whether his head injury is deteriorating. The scan indicated a small bleed on the brain. Kensi, Mr Deeks and myself will be staying here as protection until we can determine whether this is indeed related to our current case or a cold case or was just an ad hoc attack. Now what news do you have?"
"The Challenger and all the wreckage have been brought to the garage here as requested. I've not started analysing any of it yet but I gave everything a once over and have recovered the USB drive and their phones. Callen's is damaged beyond repair. It took a direct hit from a bullet, which was still in it, and probably saved Callen from further serious injury. Sam's is smashed but it could be fixed. Certainly we'll be able to retrieve data from Sam's, although I'm not sure if Eric will be able to get anything off Callen's but we have the bullet for analysis as well as the one Assistant Director Granger is bringing" explained Nell.
The call was on speaker phone and Nell and Eric heard faint intakes of breath when she mentioned Callen's phone being hit by a bullet. Hetty and Granger, and of course Sam, knew that the passenger side had been peppered by gunshots but Kensi and Deeks had yet to be fully updated about the crash and how it happened. However no-one but Callen and Sam had known about the bullet hitting the phone and they shuddered at the thought of the injury that Callen would have suffered had the phone not stopped its passage. The vision of a bullet in the hip and possibly nicking or severing the femoral artery came to their minds and they knew the outcome could have been so different. Hetty quickly brought her emotions under control and spoke to Nell.
"Thank you Miss Jones. Please start your analysis as soon as possible and let me know everything you find, however insignificant" said Hetty. As they were on speaker phone back in Ops Hetty continued to speak. "Mr Beale, please look at the footage again and see if you glean any useful information from it. Again if you find something let me know."
"Will do Hetty" answered Nell.
"On it" said Eric.
"Hetty?" said Nell.
"Yes, Miss Jones, what is it?" asked Hetty.
"I know Sam's hurt too but Callen will be okay, won't he?" Nell asked in a quiet voice.
There was a slight pause before Hetty answered. "I believe so, my dear, but all we can do it wait and pray and give him our support." Hetty heard a snifle as Nell struggled to get her emotions under control. "We can best help them both by finding out who did this."
"Yes m'am" said Nell as the call was disconnected.
Hetty, Kensi and Deeks settled down in silence to watch over their fallen comrades.